Finishing Tips: Understanding the Difference Between Polyurethane and Polycrylic

Finishing Tips: Understanding the Difference Between Polyurethane and Polycrylic

I’m currently building a Murphy Bed from a DIY hardware kit. This is the third I’ve built but the first in an enclosed cabinet, and all of the plywood pieces you need to product mean there’s a lot of finishing required. I absolutely hate applying finish.

For years MixWax’s Fast-Drying Polyurethane has been my go-to for any cabinetry or furniture project, and I even used to use it for the floors of my old photo studio. I wouldn’t recommend it for high-traffic flooring situations, but other than that it’s reasonably durable.

What I hate is that it’s oil-based, which means you have to clean the brushes with mineral spirits (those disposable foam brushes won’t cut it here). I’ve got this down to a fairly non-messy science–but it takes freaking forever and the fumes are awful. So I think once the current pieces are cured, I may switch to Polycrylic for the others.

I was poking around for a good explanation from an end-user on the practical differences between Polyurethane and Polycrylic, and sat through some bad and misguided videos before I finally found this informative, straight-to-the-point explanation by the Welcome to the Woods channel:

As someone who sits through a lot of DIY YouTube videos, this is an example of a good one, because the host avoids all the “Don’ts” of a bad DIY video. I’ll list those “Don’ts” below:

– Don’t spend the first two minutes of the video re-hashing what the problem is. We already know what the problem is, that’s why we came.

– Don’t give us a long intro sequence, as if we’re watching the opening credits of a 1950s TV show.

– Don’t use shaky handheld camera footage.

Please don’t add music, and especially not at a volume that obscures the dialogue. The chances that we viewers all love your preferred genre of music is slim.

If any of you have additional tips on Polyurethane vs. Polycrylic, I’m all ears. Also, if you’ve got a preferred finish manufacturer other than MinWax–they always seem to be the only brand I can get locally, so I use them out of incumbency, not loyalty–please sound off.